the president of the organising committee of the 35th World Artistic
Gymnastics Championships and the Vlaaamse Turnliga (VTL) Mr Marc
"Organising these world championships has been one of the
greatest challenges in the history of the Vlaamse Turnliga (VTL) and
the Federation of General and Sports Gymnastics (AFG). Together, we
have done everything to make sure that the delegations, guests,
press and the fans feel welcome and have excellent conditions"
Mr. Schoenmaekers, this is the second
time Belgium is hosting a major international gymnastics event at the
beginning of a new century. The first time was in 1903, when the World
Championships were held in Antwerp. Will these be historical Worlds?
"I hope so, but we will only be able to judge that after they are
over. First of all we have noticed that there are more gymnasts competing
in these world championships than ever before. On the other hand the
organisation is getting more and more difficult with the increasing number
of athletes. The FIG will have to rethink the preliminary competition. We
need events with top gymnasts only. Why should we set up top training
facilities for 600 athletes for an entire week? Shouldn't they train at
Recent events in the USA and the political situation that followed
have cast a shadow on this peacfeul competition. In what way was the
organisation of this event influenced and what special measures have you
"We have more than doubled our seurity efforts! We coordinated
our work in the final phase with the Ghent police, the state security and
the Belgian Ministry of the Interior. Scrupulous securtiy checks during
accreditation guarantee that only genuinely authorised people are
allowed into the security zones. THe arena is checked thouroughly in the
mornings and the evenings. We have a security lock- up system and
surveillance at night, including dogs. This ensures the security of all
areas. We have installed additional cameras, but I think everything has
been installed in such a way that our guests don't notice very much and
will hopefully feel well."
Some of the top nations, like China and Japan, have either cancelled or
only sent reduced contingents of athletes. What is your opinion on this?
"Japan was the only country to cancel because of security issues.
Of course, we have to respect their decision. China had different,
internal resaons that we couldn't do anything about either. We are happy
that so many others came, more nations than ever before. We did have
discussions with the FIG prior to the competition how we would go about
securing an event like this in case of cancellation. The large part of the
costs had already been incurred when the dreadful events happened on
September 11 and it would have been a huge financial loss. There should be
a trust fund set up in the future for this sort of crisis which
unfortunately can't be excluded anymore.
to the athletes they were very positive about the training conditions in
the halls in the EXPO. The logistics of transport must have been very
difficult. How do feel about the organisation before the competition and
what aspect was the most difficult?
"Dealing with the specific problems and questions of transport
and accommodation had to be organised in an almost military fashion over
the past six months. Ghent is beautiful but small town with heavy
traffic.We only managed this with help from the police."
The FIG Council decided on a new competition format in the spring.
How will this be received by the public and the media.?
"Dropping one touch warm-ups is certainly better for the audience
and the media. We have a centre for artistic gymnastics and acrobatics
right next to the Topsporthal Vlaanderen which was opened in the summer,
and offers top conditions for warm-up. Belgian TV will broadcast in the
evening, and sometimes even live."
Worlds have been given wings by a figure from Greek mythology. Will they
go down in history and the PEGASES festival and how do feel about the
reactions this new apparatus has received so far?.
"I think this marks the beginning of a great technical
development. From what I have seen here so far, the vaults are higher,
more beautiful, longer and, above all, safer. I am eager to see what
gymnasts and coaches will come up with using the the new conditions the
PEGASES offers. "
was some drama concerning the non-nomination of the Belgian men's
team. What is the latest news on this and what is your position as VTL
"Our Men's Technical Committee - 10 people, five each from the
VTL and the AFG- sat down in February and decided that our men's team
would have to score at least 200 points to contend for a place in the
They only made this once, at our National Championships (202) and then
never again (192/194/197) - they didn't make the mark in their last
competition against Denmark either. So, we took a vote in the MTC
and the result was 6:4 against sending a team. We considered this to be a
genuinely democratic process. We regret that the gymnasts took legal
action to get them into this competition. There are some discrepancies in
Belgian gymnastics and there is still some unfinished internal business
between VTL and AFG."
The opening ceremony is today. The week's competition is about to begin.
What are the 3 biggest wishes the president of the organising committee
"First of all: No security problems ...! Secondly: Happy Guests,
athletes and top routines. Thirdly: That the organising committe will
survive these world championships financially after the final bill has
thank you for taking the time for this interview.